In John’s Gospel we pick up the story of yet another appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ after his crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus is walking by the sea of Tiberius. Fittingly, this story begins in much the same way as the story of when Jesus’ earthly ministry began three years earlier.
His disciples are fishing. They had returned to the vocation in which they had been engaged before they first met Jesus. As was the case after Jesus was resurrected from the grave, they did not recognize him instantly. Like some wise stranger handing out sound advice, they listened as Jesus advised them on how to catch a bigger haul of fish. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat.” They did as Jesus said and they hauled in so much fish they could barely lift the net into the boat. Then the disciple that Jesus loved, Simon Peter, proclaimed ,”It is the Lord!”
They jumped into the water, wading out toward the shore and Jesus. Jesus had prepared breakfast for them. There were burning coals and a fire and some bread. The fish were laid upon the fire. It is noted very specifically that they brought in 153 fish. Not 152 or 154 but 153. This specificity is precise, exact. Had this story been a work of fiction or merely a fable we would not have the exact number of fish brought in that memorable morning. As is often found through the Gospels, they are recording history as well as revealing supernatural and spiritual truth. We have this specificity especially in the days after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus appeared to at least 500 people after he had been raised from the dead. But of all his appearances, Jesus’ encounters with his disciples, those fishermen and men of various vocations who had walked the dusty backroads of ancient Palestine with Jesus — when Jesus appeared to this intimate group, it was special.
During breakfast, which he served to his flock, Jesus broke the bread as only Jesus could do and gave it to them. This was now the third time that Jesus had appeared to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead.
Notice importantly that Jesus fed his disciples upon His appearing. Feeding the stomach was as important as feeding and nourishing the soul. We reflect upon Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He instructs the family of the resurrected girl to “give her something to eat.”
And after the disciples finished eating their breakfast meal, Jesus does something very important. Very significant. He reinstates Peter to the spiritual fold and flock of Christ. Peter is redeemed. We all recall that Peter denied Jesus three times, most significantly after Jesus’ arrest. We know that Peter went away and wept bitterly. Peter, like many of us, have denied the true identity of Christ, when we are in the company of perhaps people we deem as sophisticated and we might uncharacteristically look away and not challenge the skeptics when it was said, “well you know this Jesus you talk about was a very good man, a very good preacher, but well, being raised from the dead, well now that’s a hard pill to swallow.”
We know that Jesus had turned to Peter on one occasion and asked Peter who He was and Peter had proclaimed “Thou art the Christ. The Son of the Living God.”
When the identity and sovereignty of Christ is questioned, it is our obligation, it is our duty, it is our calling to affirm as Peter did that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ, the son of the Living God, Creator of the Universe.
For Peter knew who Christ was and is but he chose to deny him, just as often do in our daily lives. When we refuse to help a stranger in need, we deny Jesus. When we have hate in our hearts for someone of another color or social standing, we deny Jesus. When we harden our hearts and deny forgiveness for someone who has wronged us, we deny Jesus.
But the joy, the hope, the eternal promise is that we serve a loving God who forgives us. He loves us so much that he sent his only begotten Son into the world to redeem us from our sins.
Sins which under Lucifer’s calculations would keep us slaves to death and despair.
In reinstating Peter, Jesus asked Peter one pointed question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord. You know I love you.”
Again, Jesus asked Peter the same question and Peter replies that yes, Lord, you know I love you.
And when Jesus asked Peter a third time if he truly loves him, Peter gets his feelings hurt.
“Lord, you know all things. You know I love you.”
Then Jesus says if you truly love me, you will feed my sheep.”
Now, sheep have to be led. Sheep have to be fed. They have to be led to good pastures and eat nutrient rich grass. They cannot exist or thrive among the thistles and thorns.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus leads us to good pastures. He gives us the right kind of food to eat. Many of us — myself included — eat way too much junk food. We take in what I call nutritional deficient pollution into our bodies. These are not just jelly donuts but cigarette smoke, too much alcohol or other substances, even the artificial sweeteners we use or the diet soft drinks that we consume have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever.
Our precious Lord and Savior is leading us toward greener and better pastures, the good stuff. We know deep in our hearts that we should leave the bad stuff alone but we keep right on consuming it until it ultimately kills us. A record number of Americans are dying from high blood pressure from too much salt, diabetes from too much sugar, and an alarming number are dying from opioid and alcohol addiction.
Jesus tells us where to cast our nets. He instructs us how to live our lives. He even prepares a wholesome and life-sustaining breakfast for us to get our day off to a good start. And that life preserving manna that sustains us comes from His hand alone. The same hands that were pieced upon the cross for our transgressions.
I am asking you today to cast your nets on the right side of the boat. To haul in more blessings in life than you ever imagined by walking with Jesus Christ. That our Lord has a banquet prepared for us in heaven that will satisfy our hunger and thirst for happiness, and love, and belonging and peace. That marvelous peace that passes all understanding.
Take the hand of Jesus today, will you? Sit with Him and talk with him and enjoy that life sustaining meal with him that he has prepared by his own body and his own blood — those spiritual nutrients that will give you eternal life forever and ever and ever.
Blessed be the hearing, reading and understanding of God’s Holy Word. Amen and Amen.
Robert L. Long is the pastor of New Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Nesbit.